Strikingly, Obama’s allusions to the nation’s asphyxiating debt and the entitlement programs driving it accounted for just 94 words of the 2,142 he spoke in his second inaugural – less than one percent of the speech. (Obama’s section on climate change was twice as long.) Both times the president spoke of entitlements and deficits, Obama defended the programs but gave no hint at the steps he would take to address the rising debt.
The president’s defenders explain that an inaugural isn’t the place for specific policy proposals. Those will come in his State of the Union, they promise.
Perhaps, though there is little reason to believe Obama will provide details on deficit reduction beyond new ways to raise taxes on the wealthy. And other presidents have offered specific proposals in their inaugural addresses. Ronald Reagan used his second inaugural to call for a freeze in federal spending and balanced budget. Reagan lamented “almost unbroken 50 years of deficit spending” which brought the nation to “a turning point, a moment for hard decisions…If not us, who? And if not now, when?”
Reagan fell short of those objectives. But at least he acknowledged the growing threat presented by rising debt.